Father's Day: This man is a father to 45 HIV positive children

Published: Jun 16, 2019, 10:46 IST | mid-day online correspondent

Solomon Raja fondly known as ‘Appa’, has adopted around 45 abandoned HIV positive children in Chennai

Father's Day: This man is a father to 45 HIV positive children
Pic courtesy/MILAAP

Solomon Raja fondly known as ‘Appa’, is a pillar of strength for 45 HIV positive kids in Chennai. Raja and his wife always wanted to adopt children, but things took a turn when after 8 years of their marriage they were blessed with two children. But the guilt of abandoning the idea of adoption troubled Raja, and he decided to adopt a boy who was HIV positive.

"Initially I had no other option but to leave him behind and go for work. The boy invariably hated being kept alone at home and called out people. Meanwhile, I would somehow manage to get out of work during a 45-minute lunch break to feed and make sure he’s alright."

"When I started taking him to my office, they were fine with him initially, but after they came to know about that he is HIV positive they started maintaining distance from both me and the child." But this discrimination did not demotivate Raja and decided to adopt more children who were abandoned because of the illness. Over the years, Raja has worked actively to bring home HIV positive children abandoned in hospitals by their own relatives.

He has set up a home for these kids, called Shelter Trust, in Red Hills on the outskirts of Chennai. "The Shelter is run by HIV positive people for the HIV positive kids, all that I do is to make sure money is taken care of. In the initial days finding a place for the kids was a challenge, not many were willing to rent out a space for the fear of the disease. That’s when the RightNow Foundation, an NGO based in UK, that I work with, helped with zeroing down a place to run the shelter," Raja added.

Also Read: 13-year-old writes letter urging Narendra Modi to reinstate his father in job

The staff running the shelter include commercial sex workers and children who have grown up in the Shelter. "My biological children who are in their teens, love these kids to death. In fact, my son even questioned me for a need for a children shelter. He asked me, 'Why can't they just stay with us?' to which I said there are legal restrictions," said Raja.

According to India Times, Raja has legally adopted the kids under the Child Welfare Committee provision and has a license to take care of them.

He juggles between three jobs in the social sector to provide for the kids. HIV has four stages before one becomes terminally sick and passes away. But there are multiple medical parameters involved in it - water borne and air borne diseases are the worst enemies for these patients. These kids at his shelter are on a high protein diet and are given the ART (Anti Retroviral Treatment) medications twice daily, under medical supervision. "My biggest accomplishment was to get them married off. One of my kids named Uma, a former sex worker, got married and has had a baby, I am a proud grandfather too," said Raja.

Also Read: Father's Day: The passing on of paternal health to the offspring

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